Fitness FAQs

Fitness FAQs

1. What are the main benefits of exercising?

2. How often should I exercise?

4. How can I maximize my metabolism through exercise?

5. What are mobility based exercises and how will this help me with exercising?

6. Why is it important to warm up and cool down in a workout?

8. How can I increase my flexibility?

9. Why is it important to stretch before and after a workout?

10. Why is it important to drink water before, during and after exercise?

12. What are the telltale signs of dehydration during exercise?

14. What is interval training and how can it help me burn fat?

16. What is muscle confusion?

17. Can exercise alone help me lose weight?

18. Why is it important to have REST days in between strength training days?

19. Resistance machines v Free weights

20. How can a Personal Trainer help me improve my fitness?

21. Is it possible to get a good workout using a skipping rope?

22. How can I increase my daily activity level?

23. What is Circuit Training?

What are the main benefits of exercising?

Believe it or not but exercising has many benefits.

• improve overall flexibility
• decrease stress levels
• improve cardiovascular fitness
• increase lung capacity
• reduce blood pressure
• increase metabolism
• reduce body weight and overall body fat percentage
• reduce resting heart rate
• reduce cholesterol levels
• help regulate sleeping patterns
• increase muscular strength
• improve muscular endurance
• delay the onset of osteoporosis using body weight exercises
• reduces the risk of heart disease
• strengthens the immune system

As you can see there are quite a number of benefits and it’s no wonder why so many people are taking part in regular exercise, whether it’s a run in the park, an aerobic class to music, a team sport or a gym strength training workout.

How often should I exercise?

This really depends on an individual’s fitness level as well as the time he or she has available.

For those who haven’t been exercising for a while they should aim for two or three times a week for at least 20 minutes or more. Once your fitness level improves, you can then increase the frequency of exercise sessions or their duration, which will help you to improve further.

For those whose aim is to stay healthy, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends moderate-intensity aerobics of 30/45 minutes a day for five days a week, or 20 minutes of vigorous, intense aerobics, three days a week.

Add on top of that two strength-training days a week. It is important to build up gradually and to have a rest day once a week.

However a if your goal is fat loss then it is recommended that you train using high intensity interval training (HIIT) protocol. This involves strength training exercises and aerobics in the same session e.g., timed interval circuit of 30 seconds exercise and 15 seconds rest for 20/40 minutes, three to four times per day.

How can I maximize my metabolism through exercise?

Our metabolism is a measure of how many calories you burn each day. It is a vital and constant process for all life forms that begins from the day we are conceived until the day we die. Without it, there is no life.

There are three main factors that influence your metabolism, burning calories necessary to supply the body with the energy it needs to function.

1) Your Basal Metabolic Rate or BMR is the rate your body uses energy for vital body processes.
2) Physical Activity Energy Expenditure
3) The Thermic Effect of Foods that you eat, as in the number of calories it takes to digest and absorb the foods you eat.

Apart from exercise, the food you eat and the lifestyle choices you make will have a significant impact on your metabolism. To maximize your metabolism making healthier choices is the key. By starving yourself and not following a healthy fat-loss diet, your metabolism will slow down and instead of burning fat you may possibly gain fat. You will also lose water weight and muscles.

Exercising will reduce body fat and increase lean muscle mass. By increasing lean muscle mass, metabolism will increase and aid in the weight-loss process. Muscle tissue uses more calories than fat tissue because it has a higher metabolic rate. There are two main types that will affect your metabolism, having an impact on your BMR and your level of physical activity – Cardiovascular exercise and Resistance training.

The bonus of cardio exercise or aerobic exercise is the speeding up of your metabolism for four to eight hours after you stop exercising. Walking, swimming, jogging sprinting, rowing and cycling are examples of cardiovascular exercise.

Resistance training involves using resistance to build strength and muscle mass. Even though resistance training alone does not speed up your metabolism it does burn fat, increasing your muscle mass which increases your resting metabolic rate. Bodyweight training, weight machines and free weights are examples of resistance training.

A combination of both these two types of exercise will definitely assist in optimal fat burning and metabolism boosting.

What are mobility based exercises and how will this help me with exercising?

Mobility based exercises help to prepare the joints for the impact that the main session will have. Once the body has been prepared through the warm up and an increase in body temperature and heart rate has reached a safe and steady state, it’s time to loosen the joints.

By performing selective exercises this can be achieved with progressive loosening of the joints though their natural range of motion. This will lead to an improvement in synovial fluid production and an increase in the body’s active range of motion.

Why is it important to warm up and cool down in a workout?

It is very important to warm up the body before exercising. This aids the performer in preparing physiologically and psychologically for exercises, reducing the chance of joint and muscle injury.

Warm up exercises prepare the body for exercising by increasing the blood flow to the muscles allowing them to loosen up, which can raise the flow of oxygen to the muscle cells. Doing this gradually increases the body’s temperature. This then increases the speed and force of muscular contractions, because nerve impulses travel faster at higher body temperatures, and muscles become less stiff or more pliable.

They also help to gradually increase the heart rate and ensure that the demand made on the circulatory and metabolic systems is gradual as well. In a safe and gradual way they allow blood to be diverted away from other parts of the body such as the digestive system to the muscles being exercised. This initial part of your exercise session helps to improve neural function and co-ordination, protect major joints as it takes time to increase the supply of lubricating synovial fluid and to thicken the articular cartilages – the body’s shock absorbers.

The warm up’s intensity should cause perspiration but not cause fatigue. The type of warm up needs to be appropriate for the activity planned. They also need to be appropriate to the age range and fitness level of the participants, usually lasting for 5-10 minutes in duration.

The following examples cover a warm up:
• jumping jacks, walking lunges, squats, press-ups to increase the body’s temperature
• dynamic stretches to reduce muscle stiffness
• specific mucle activation technique for muscles that will be used during exercises

So in warming up thoroughly, we are preparing the body and the mind for the more energetic demands to come.

The cool down period of an exercise session is just as important as the warm up. The aim is to decrease the intensity of the aerobic session and to return the body to a state of rest.

The cooling down has the effect of:
• preventing blood pooling, returning the blood back to the heart rather than allowing it to pool in the muscles that have been worked
• bringing the heart rate back down, gradually
• preventing fainting by ensuring that the brain continues to receive a sufficient supply of blood and oxygen
• reducing the blood lactic acid levels

Once you have completed the main component of your session you can then focus on the cooling down phase. The key here is ‘gradual’. Use the first 3-5 minutes by walking, or jogging if you have been running, which will bring your breathing under control and back to normal. Once your heart rate has returned back to a state of rest you can then follow this with some stretching. Stretching the muscle groups you used in your workout will return them to their normal length, reduce the delayed onset of muscular soreness, aid recovery and assist your body in its repair process. Don’t forget to include some deep breathing as this will help to oxygenate your system.

How can I increase my flexibility?

Flexibility is increased through stretching. If you stretch a few times a day, especially during the morning and night it can help your body become more flexible. It is very important to be consistent with stretching. If you’re not, your body can start to lose the flexibility somewhat quickly.

Developmental stretches are aimed at increasing general flexibility and should therefore be performed at the end of an exercise session.

These stretches should be performed using your own bodyweight, gravitational pull, or pressure of hands if you working with a partner. The best suited developmental stretches are performed lying on the floor or in a seated position.

It is important that the muscle being stretched is relaxed, as the position needs to be held for at least 20/45 seconds. By breaking down the stretch into two phases, the limb can then be taken into a position that allows the muscle to be lengthened further, thus increasing the stretch.

The initial stretch is taken to a point of tension and held until the muscle relaxes further, followed by a further period of at least 20 seconds. You will find that after the first period, the tension that develops in the stretched muscle, as a result of the stretch reflex, subsides.

If the limb starts to shake then the stretch has been taken too far and should be released. At this stage, no pain or discomfort should be felt.

Overall, you should expect to increase flexibility gradually. Make sure you warm up properly before stretching. Don’t try to increase flexibility too quickly by forcing yourself.

Why is it important to stretch before and after a workout?

After the warm up, dynamic stretching before a workout allows the body to become more pliable and less prone to injury. The muscles that should be dynamically stretched will be the main muscles groups that are going to be worked on during the session.

So for example, if you are doing a lower body workout, the hamstrings, the quadriceps, the glutes and the calf are the muscles that would need to be stretched. These stretches should be performed whilst standing and gently held between 8-10 seconds. This is so that your heart rate does not drop too much during this time.

However, this practice is now being questioned. Some say that a warm up is sufficient and would rather leave the stretches until the end of their session.

Post stretches or maintenance stretches are just as or if not more important than stretching prior to your workout, after your warm up. The main muscles groups used during the session are the ones that need to stretch.

If a muscle group has been continually contracted in the main workout, stretches should be performed to get the muscle back to their normal length. They may also help to alleviate potential soreness.

A maintenance stretch is usually held for between 30/45 seconds.

Stretching helps to:

• reduce muscle tension, and make the body feel more relaxed
• increase the range of motion
• prevent muscle strains: a strong pre-stretched muscle resists stress better than a strong unstretched muscle
• prevent joint strains
• reduce the risk of back problems
• prepare the body for strenuous exercise
• increase ‘body awareness’
• promote circulation
• for females, reduces the severity of painful menstruation (dysmenorrhea)
• increase the learning, practice, and performance of many types of skilled movements
• reduce muscular soreness

You should not stretch if:

• there has been a recent bone fracture, sprain or strain
• the range of motion is in some way limited
• the joint is inflamed or infected
• if you have signs of osteoporosis
• you experience pain when the joint is moved or the muscle is stretched
• you are suffering from certain diseases of the skin or blood

Why is it important to drink water before, during and after exercise?

The role water plays in your regular exercise regimen is very important and should not be dismissed casually. Therefore it is important to ensure that you are properly hydrated before you start your workout to minimise the risk of dehydration during exercise.

Mild dehydration can just as easily result in early fatigue as your body is unable to cool itself efficiently, which then puts extra stress on the heart and lungs.

Water is an essential nutrient that is often overlooked. It is a major component of our body. Our body weight consists of between 50-75% of water. To function properly all organs require water. Water assists in absorption, excretion, circulation, digestion and is a medium for all chemical changes in the body. Without water, you can die.

Food Standards Guidelines recommend drinking 6-8 glasses or cups to achieve the recommended 1.5-2L of water a day.

Before your workout, The American College of Sports Medicine recommends drinking between 2-4 glasses or 400-600ml of water during 2-3 hours before your workout. The best way to do this is by sipping at regular intervals instead of drinking it all in one go. But the best strategy by far is to keep hydrated throughout the day.

During training it’s important to replace your sweat losses otherwise your cardiovascular system will have to work much harder than normal. To do this you need to match your fluid intake as closely as possible to your loss. If you allow yourself to become dehydrated during exercise it can result in vomiting and heat exhaustion, in severe cases.

The American College of Sports Medicine and American Dietetics Association recommend drinking 150-350ml every 15-20 minutes. You should start drinking early during your workout as it takes about 30 minutes for the fluid to be absorbed into your bloodstream.

Once your workout has finished you should start drinking immediately. The sooner you start replacing the fluid you lost through sweat the sooner you will recover and cut the risk of post-workout dehydration. By drinking enough to cover the amount you lost, you will reduce the risk of a headache and nausea. Over the first 30 minutes, try to drink 500ml, little and often. Then continue to sip until you pass clear or pale urine.

What are the telltale signs of dehydration during exercise?

Early symptoms include:

• lacking in energy
• nausea
• feel hot
• fatigue sets in early during exercise
• skin appears flushed and feels cool and clammy

If any of the above occurs, you should stop exercising and drink between 100-200ml of water or sports drink every 10-15 minutes.

If you have more advanced symptoms such as a bad headache, dizziness or light-headed, short of breath or appear disorientated then you should stop exercising, follow the above action of drinking water or a sports drink and seek professional help.

What is interval training and how can it help me burn fat?

Interval training is based upon repetition work or short bursts of activity at high intensity, followed by a recovery period at low intensity. It works both the aerobic and anaerobic system.

During the high intensity interval, lactic acid builds and the body enters oxygen debt. During recovery, the heart and lungs work together to give back this oxygen debt, breaking down lactic acid. This is the aerobic system in control, using oxygen to convert stored carbohydrates into energy.

It’s a great cardio workout which has been proven to burn fat nine times more than regular steady state cardio. It is also a great way to boost your metabolism. If you are counting calories, then short, high intensity exercises like interval training is the way to go.

Depending on your fitness level, alternate between 10-20 seconds of maximal effort, followed by 10-20 seconds of recovery time with the intensity being at a lower level whether it be jogging or walking. Repeat these intervals for at least 10 times with 90 seconds rest and then repeat a second time.

Over time, you can increase your work load to a longer period of maximal effort. Interval training for beginners will provide an improvement in fitness, health, speed and stamina. The best way to go about it is to ease your body into it. You can always begin with a light jog as your maximal effort and a brisk walk as your recovery. Remember to do a 5 minute warm up, mobility work and some dynamic stretching beforehand.

What is muscle confusion?

The aim of muscle confusion is to confuse the muscles so that you can avoid plateaus and keep getting results. To achieve this, you need to keep your body guessing by changing your routine.

The principle is simple; never let your muscles develop a memory. Your body can adapt pretty quickly and when it does, it essentially becomes more efficient. Muscles will respond much better to resistance they are not used to. Changing your workout on a regular basis forces the body to work harder. The key is to keep your muscles struggling with the workout. By doing this you will be burning more calories and building more lean muscle.

By cycling your training program, every 4 weeks, your muscles do not have the chance to get used to the exercises. There are a variety of ways to change your workout. One way is to change the speed at which you do each exercise. So instead of doing controlled movements using specific tempos such as 2-0-1, with 2 seconds to complete the move, pause at zero then return to the start in 1 second, perform the exercise as fast as possible using full range of motion. Use lighter weights or bodyweight exercises are best for this.

Technique can also switch things up. This doesn’t have to be a major change for your body to notice a difference. Using pushups as an example, you can put your hands further apart or put closer together. This can also be done with squats using a wider stance, with your feet flared out.

There are a variety of exercises that work each muscle group so don’t be afraid to change this every four weeks. You can perform these by using free weights, resistance machines, resistance bands or your own bodyweight. Don’t forget that you can vary the repetitions and sets you use.

Can exercise alone help me lose weight?

Exercise alone will not help you lose weight. Eating a healthy diet comes together with exercise and a mixture of both should be highly considered. By making small changes gradually to your diet you will be amazed as to how much weight you can lose. Adding exercise to this will also help you lose weight by burning fat even after your workout has finished. It will also tone up your body at the same time.

Why is it important to have REST days in between strength training days?

Aerobic exercise can and should be done daily if you are trying to lose weight. Weight training however is different. Muscles need a day of rest in between workouts to allow them to rebuild, repair and strengthen itself in preparation for the next workout session.

So while you can walk, run, swim, etc everyday it is best not to train the same muscle groups everyday. Some people do this by only lifting weights every other day or some do it by weight training everyday, but focusing on different parts of the body. For example, arms and upper-body one day, legs the next.

Having rest days between strength training workouts allows the body to replenish energy stores and repair damaged tissues.

Resistance machines v Free weights

Resistance machines are seen as the safer method. However, incorrect use can still make them dangerous and they restrict natural movements and in the long run make you prone to injury.  If you are new to strength training and you’re working out by yourself, then machines are the best place to start.

Resistance machines tend to isolate specific muscles and they do most of the work for you. They keep the weight stable and assist with control of movement.

Some points to consider before using resistance machine:
• make sure that the machines are in working order
• make sure you warm up, mobilize your joints and stretch
• always make sure that the pin or key is secure in the stack
• always focus on good technique
• lift only within your capabilities

Free weights are known to be better in terms of strength training as they develop all the stabilizer muscles which are need in general life. They also allow you to work out many muscle groups at the same time. Your balance, co-ordination and core strength will greatly improve as free weights require you to rely on them in each movement.

Some basic rules to follow:
• warm up and stretch thoroughly before attempting any lifts
• make sure there is adequate space around you before lifting
• concentrate on good technique
• keep back straight throughout the whole lifting sequence
• always put free weights away after use

An advantage free weights have over resistance machines is they are functional to everyday activities.

I regards to expense, free weights are considerably less expensive than resistance machines. It only takes a little imagination and access to some free weights and you can complete a full body strength workout.

How can a Personal Trainer help me improve my fitness?

Personal Trainers have many roles. They are there to provide you with education, motivation and support as you work towards your goals. They specialize in numerous areas including GP and exercise referral, functional training, sports specific, aerobic conditioning, strength training and speed, quickness and agility and many more.

Personal Trainers of today are highly skilled in exercise prescription and can teach a variety of exercises. A session usually lasts an hour. In between sessions the Personal Trainer will review and monitor how the prescription is developing and track and keep records of their client’s progress on a weekly basis.

In your first session you can expect to go through a number of tests which will help the Personal Trainer determine your level of fitness so that they can prescribe the correct training program for you.

These days you can expect to find Personal Trainer’s offering their services outside of the gym, whether it’s at their home or yours, a park or a private studio. So if you find gyms intimidating or expensive then this is the way to go.

Is it possible to get a good workout using a skipping rope?

Using a skipping rope in your workout is a great way to burn calories and raise your heart rate. It can also improve your balance and coordination and make you more flexible too.

How can I increase my daily activity level?

To add more steps into your day you can:

• make activity part of your social life by walking to the cinema, pub or restaurant or to visit friends
• find out about local walks in the area to include family or friends
• walk rather than drive to the local shop for a daily paper or milk
• park at the furthest point from the shop in the car park
• use the stairs instead of the lift or escalator
• reduce tv time and make time to get household jobs done
• be active as often as possible
• get off the bus or train a stop early and walk the rest of the distance to your destination
• organize activities such as a game football in the park with friends or family

What is Circuit Training?

Circuit Training involves a set number of carefully selected exercises arranged in a consecutive manner.

It allows each individual to work at his or her own pace at a predetermined number of stations or exercises for a set period of time or number of repetitions. The number of exercises may vary and each participant moves from one station to the next with either little or no rest in between.

Each circuit may consist of a combination of exercise machines, hand-held weights, elastic resistance and bodyweight. It can also offer increased improvements in cardio-respiratory endurance by adding a 30 second to 3 minute (or longer) aerobic station between each resistance station.

With regular circuit training, lean body mass can be increased with a subsequent decrease in fat. Resistance exercises promote muscle development, increasing in muscle mass and tone.

Existing research supports the view that circuit training does improve various aspects of fitness as expected by the general public and athletes alike.

author: Valentine

Personal Trainer · S&C Coach · Official Trainer to Sky1 Obese A Year to Save My Life & SkyLiving FAT: The Fight of My Life I'm a father and a husband, and my girls are my inspiration to be better, do better & continually help others achieve better of themselves.


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